Efficient freight transport is an important factor of competitiveness of urban areas and to sustain wealth generation. However, freight traffic also imposes significant costs in terms of congestion and environmental pollution, which, in turn, affect significantly the quality of life in the cities. To reduce the pressure on the cities' infrastructures and inhabitants and being aware that the final part of the transport chain towards the delivery point is undertaken by a wide range of actors, there is a need for assessing whether new intermodal concepts can be applied. Such concepts rely mainly on new schemes for co-operation and co-ordination between different modes and organisations, as well as on new technologies for the intermodal loading units, for the exchange of information in the intermodal markets and for the improvement of the transhipment operations.
The main project objective was to demonstrate different concepts aimed to
improve the distribution of goods within urban areas and between
intermodal terminals/freight centres and urban areas.
Specific objectives of the project were to implement and assess in five
sites (Nürnberg in Germany, the Öresund region, the Ile de France, the
Randstad agglomeration in The Nerherlands, and Zürich) innovative
solutions in the following areas:
regional or local bundling of urban freight transport, using common
carriers or co-operative distribution concepts (Nürnberg, Öresund,
new loading units in urban intermodal transport (Nürnberg, Zürich),
new ICT applications for information exchange in intermodal transport,
including optimisation of distribution networks (Nürnberg and Randstad)
and multi-operator tracking and tracing systems (Nürnberg, Ile de
new transhipment systems (Zürich),
combined passenger and freight transport concepts (Öresund), and
use of alternative fuels and energy sources in urban freight vehicles
All IDIOMA innovations showed, generally, a reduction of emission levels but the economic performance was unsatisfactory. Regional or local bundling projects, which included testing of a multi-temperature vehicle for composite distribution of goods in the Öresund site, were only partially successful and were found difficult to implement in the current transport business environment. While in some cases computer-based network optimisation helped achieve environmental benefits, savings of distribution costs could not be proved. City/small container concepts showed technical problems which in principle can be solved, while the commercial perspective is more uncertain with high transhipment costs being the main barrier.
The in-time provision of traffic information proved effective in eliminating a substantial part of the delays at the intermodal centres. The new horizontal transhipment system RTS-500 Furmia proved to be still too costly and difficult to work with for the terminal personnel but is expected to become operationally feasible in the near future with proper adaptation in the terminal infrastructure.
Integrated transport of passenger and freight has the advantage of fast access to city centres but showed limitations in the feasible sizes of the cargoes as well as organisational difficulties for their transhipments. Demonstrations of use of alternative fuels, which included rape seed oil propelled delivery vans in Nürnberg and biogas fuelled vans in the Öresund site, made apparent as main barrier to large scale introduction the competition with other fuels having massive supply infrastructure.
IDIOMA made once more obvious that new initiatives in urban areas distribution are needed especially in the pre and end haulage of intermodal transport chains.Most significant IDOMA results are:
- Regional or local bundling projects in urban freight transport as demonstrated in Nuremberg, Randstad, Öresund and Zürich, were only partially successful. IDIOMA proved that on the one side a reduction of emissions can be achieved, especially when regarding intermodal transport chains. On the other side, it turns out that such approaches are extremely difficult to implement in the current transport business environment.
- City/Small container concepts can significantly reduce environmental impacts of freight transport. However the concepts demonstrated in IDIOMA met with technical problems and were therefore not commerc
The problems shown in the commercial performance of the IDIOMA concepts call for support to development of freight transport structures in urban areas and to training and education of transport operators. The expectation that heavy vehicle fees might be introduced elsewhere following the Swiss example calls for the need to improve concepts in particular on the pre- and end-leg of intermodal transport.
Standardisation efforts and further demonstration projects are recommended for small containers which will more likely play only a marginal role in city distribution without large investments in infrastructure and equipment. An overall approach should be developed for the handling and carrying of intermodal equipment as well as the processes and the facilities in freight centres. Further research is recommended on the share and usage of information along the transport chain as well as the entire supply chain and on transhipment systems to make small-volume terminals more profitable.
Due to the introduction of the Heavy Vehicles Fee (HVF) in Switzerland in the end of the IDIOMA project it was possible to show – as one of the first project – the influence of this fee on intermodal transport and in particular on urban transport. Considering the introduction of such charges also in other European countries in the near future the relevance that there is a need to develop and to employ improved concepts on the pre and end leg of intermodal transport chains becomes obvious.
Best practices are one thing that is needed, new kind of transport and logistic organisation – including Public Private Partnerships (PPP) - is the other prerequisite to reach such an adoption. In this context more field trials applying innovative technologies and concepts would certainly contribute to more sustainable urban goods flows.
An overall approach should be developed for the handling and carrying of intermodal equipment as well as the processes and the facilities in freight centres. Further research is recommended on the share and usage of information along the transport chain as well as the entire supply chain and on transhipment systems to make small-volume terminals more profitable.